California Contraceptive Ruling

VirusDoc has a post today on the California supreme court decision that catholic charities must include birth control in the health insurance coverage for employees. There are a couple of things that bother me about this story.

The first is the Catholic Charities stance of not allowing birth control prescriptions to be covered under their health plans. Are all of their employees Catholic, or are even all Catholics of the same mind in this? I would imagine not, so they are forcing their agenda on people of other faiths or opinions. The argument goes, and Eric made it in his blog, that they believe it to be offensive to God and it offends them to pay for someone else to use birth control. I find this kind of stance to be unjustifiable. No where in scripture can you point to where God says, unequivocally, that birth control is sin. Can you make an argument for it? Sure. Can you defend a position against birth control with scripture? Yep. But I can defend my position that there is no law against it with scriptures as well. So who's right? I would say that if it's important to you and you have deep convictions about it, by all means don't do it. In fact, the Bible does teach that it would be sin for you to violate your conscience (Romans 14). but in the same chapter it teaches that for you to bind your opinion on me, on disputable matters, would be sin as well. What bothers me here is not that Catholics (assuming they are all of one mind on this) believe that birth control is a sin, it's that they teach it as factual and force that opinion on others. This goes against the scriptures, Romans 14 specifically, and the spirit of love and freedom that is the New Testament message.

The second thing that bothers me is the idea that birth control is a right, and therefore must be guaranteed in legislation. VirusDoc writes:

The other aspect of this story that I find interesting is that the CA courts seem to be coming from the standpoint that contraceptives are a fundamental human right and a medical necessity. I guess this shouldn't be surprising, but I've started examining the assumptions behind our country's widespread use of contraceptives a little more carefully since I started exploring Catholicism.

Is birth control really a fundamental human right? Is it really medically necessary?

Perhaps I should clarify my trouble with this. I think that birth control is a fundamental right. We have the right to choose when we have a baby. But we have the most reliable means in and among our selves - abstinence. We don't need pills, surgery or condoms (BTW - What to Catholics think about condoms?) to control our procreation, they only make it easier. Frankly, the Catholic endorsed rhythm method is reasonably reliable, if you're disciplined (potentially big if). So to me the right to birth control has nothing to do with health insurance, you can have one without the other.


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As I read my own comments here it occurs to me that just as it's wrong for the Catholics to force the idea of not using birth control on me, it would be wrong for me to try to force them to pay for something that offends them. It cuts both ways, something I missed as I was writing it.

I'm going to respond tomorrow on my blog as well, but just a few brief points here:

Although the Catholic position on contraception (which I still don't agree with) is not literally biblical, they would argue that it is drawn (with minimal human philosophical intervention) directly from a biblical view of human sexuality. This is the case for many areas of Christian doctrine that touch on cultural or technological issues not in existence at the time of scriptural authorship. Let's take pornography, for example. No one in biblical times could have anticipated our ability to store, manipulated, and transmit such high quality images of the naked human form. So nowhere is pornography discussed. But I think almost all Christians would agree that pornography violates scriptural passages referring to lust--and lust is primary viewed as a vice because it violates the sanctity of married sexuality.

So, on this issue and others (human cloning, for example), I think it's dangerous to argue from the standpoint of "if it ain't spelled out in scripture, it's disputable." Some issues are so important that even if they aren't spelled out, we must infer from what IS written in scripture a reasonable (and normative) doctrine.

I'm going to disagree with you here, and say something potentially shocking as well. Frankly, I don't think that pornography itself is sinful. It's what we do with it, the lust that it spawns, that's sinful. Now I frankly find it difficult to see how to separate the pornography from the lust, but it is possible. If I could thumb through Playboy honestly just for the articles and not get aroused by the images that would be just fine. (Any man understands that is darn near impossible for us.) But we don't need the pictures. We can get to the same place by the attractive girl in the tight sweater or simply by not taking control of our thoughts and letting our mind wander with no external stimuli. Back in biblical days there weren't any means of printing these images, but the people could still draw them or ogle over the women in town or the women in their mind. Same sin.

I think that we need to look at technological innovations, and just as you said, determine what the spiritual implications are. We have to learn to extract the spiritual principals from the technological innovations. For example, the internet is no where in the Bible. One of the most common uses of the internet is pornography, so we could make the argument and stance that the internet should be avoided as sinful. But then we'd miss out on all the incredible spiritual resources in the web and the ability to have conversations like this. I don't think these decisions should be made on a church wide basis but rather the church ought to equip the disciples to make these decisions on their own. To continue my example, for some, the internet may be evil, or at least provide too easy a path to sin. To others, it is of no temptation at all. If we try to provide rules to make everything 'safe' for everyone, it will rob us all of our much that is good.

Ahh! We agree more than you suppose on the porn issue. I used it because it was a convenient example. Perhaps you would allow yourself to rationalize even further and say that neither porn nor the arousal it causes are inherently bad. After all, isn't the sinful part of lust the fact that it makes you want a woman who is not your wife--a sexual form of coveting? Then would it be acceptable to, say, use pornography within the context of your marriage to enhance your and your wife's arousal--a true "marital aid?" I put this forth tonque-in-cheek, but the logic seems internally consistent. If the pornographic images are used (with the enthusiasm of both husband and wife) to strengthen the sexual bond of marriage, then where would be the harm?

Another question for you: if porn itself (the images) is not sinful, but the only possible USE of porn is sinful, then why should it not essentially be considered sinful itself? Can you think of a spiritually legitimate use of pornographic images? Perhaps there is some subset of what we loosely term "porn" that can be considered an artistic ode to the beauty of the human form...

Boy, this has gone in a direction I didn't expect!

To your example above, I guess I'd say that while it may be technically possible for that to happen, it's hard to find it even remotely likely. What are the odds of finding a man that could do that with purity and a woman that would think it's a good idea and then have them married to each other? Besides, the Bible does caution us that though it may be technically OK, it may not be the best thing or even a good thing (1 Cor. 6:12 and 1 Cor. 10:23).
There are certainly things (porn is a good example) that are of very limited, if any, value to a Christian.

The bigger point is that we each have to make those decisions ourselves. You and I may dissagree about it, and even have heated discussions about it, but it goes to our individual consciences to decide if it's sin or not. In the end we have to be able, in love, to respect the others view nad convictions. I do not think it is the churches role, corporately, to make pronouncements on each and every 'disputable matter' or new technology that all the members must adhere to. That is one of the places that the Catholic Church (and frankly many others, including my own church's past) part ways.



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  • Boy, this has gone in a direction I didn't expect! To your example above, I guess I'd say that while it may be technically possible for that to happen, it's hard to find it even remotely likely. What are the odds of fi...

  • Another question for you: if porn itself (the images) is not sinful, but the only possible USE of porn is sinful, then why should it not essentially be considered sinful itself? Can you think of a spiritually legitimate...

  • Ahh! We agree more than you suppose on the porn issue. I used it because it was a convenient example. Perhaps you would allow yourself to rationalize even further and say that neither porn nor the arousal it causes ar...

  • I'm going to disagree with you here, and say something potentially shocking as well. Frankly, I don't think that pornography itself is sinful. It's what we do with it, the lust that it spawns, that's sinful. Now I fra...

  • I'm going to respond tomorrow on my blog as well, but just a few brief points here: Although the Catholic position on contraception (which I still don't agree with) is not literally biblical, they would argue that it is...

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